PocketPeds App wins 12th Annual M-CERSI America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent Competition

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PocketPeds, an app devised to help parents accurately dose pediatric medications, has won the 12th annual University of Maryland Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (M-CERSI) America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent competition

The app, which will calculate individualized dosages for over-the-counter (OTC) medications for children based on their age and weight, was created by second-year University of Maryland School of Pharmacy students and University of Maryland, College Park alumni Jiwon Oh (B.S.’21 in Biological Sciences), Oanh Hoang (B.S.'22 in Chemistry and Psychology), Danielle Doan (B.S.'22 in General Biology), and Christina Nguyen (B.S.'22 in Biochemistry). 

During an internship with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Clinical Pharmacology—Pediatric Divisions in the summer of 2023, Oh learned how complicated pharmacology in children can be due to varied physiological development stages and related challenges in drug dosing and regulations for pediatric patients.

Following her internship, Oh and her other team members took “Introduction to the Poison Center,” an elective class at the School of Pharmacy, where they shadowed phone calls made to the Maryland Poison Center. 

They heard from parents who had accidentally overdosed their children with common medications such as Tylenol or Motrin. The experience opened their eyes to just how easily parents can misinterpret children’s medication instructions. The major pain points, they discovered, were a lack of patient-friendly dosing instructions and measurement tools for these medications.

"Our primary focus when developing the app was making it patient-centered," said Oh. “Dosing errors are the most common medication errors, and they are three times more likely in the pediatric population than in adults. The goal of this app is to help reduce that number." 

After being introduced to the PocketPeds app during the competition, M-CERSI co-directors Bill Bentley and Jim Polli became interested in the possibility of turning the team’s idea into a reality.

“M-CERSI was the first joint initiative between the UMB and UMCP campuses under MPowering the State and we have enjoyed over a decade of research successes that have come out of our FDA activities,” said Bentley. “Every year, teams entering the competition enjoy mentorship from university faculty and also staff at the FDA. Then, FDA folks help with judging and determining the winners. This year, just like the last several years, winners happened to have conceived of iOS or Android phone apps. The winning team this year consisted of four PharmD graduate students. Connecting them with tech-savvy students in College Park made sense to Jim and me so as to help in the completion of the app.  

Bentley sought out the new University of Maryland's student-run App Development Club to see if the club could help the PocketPeds team bring their app to life. 

"This project is a unique opportunity for our students to get involved in a business idea from the ground floor to both design and launch an app that could have real impacts in the world of accessible healthcare solutions," said April Porter, the App Development Club's sponsorship co-director. 

The PocketPeds team was excited to hear about support from the club. 

"From the moment we first heard the initial idea proposal to Oanh's instantaneous conception of the logo and name, and now the App Development Club wanting to work with us to get a beta version of the app up and running, everything seems to have fallen into place perfectly as if it were meant to be," said Oh. 

The app, with initial functionality, is projected to be completed by the end of this Spring’s semester, with additional features planned for future semesters. 

"I am excited that Bill was able to arrange for this great opportunity for students at the two campuses to work together and build on unique student strengths," said Polli.

The America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent competition is an annual event hosted by M-CERSI that is open to students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and University of Maryland, College Park. The goal of the competition is to promote student interest in the science of developing new tools, standards, and approaches to assess the safety, efficacy, quality, and performance of FDA-regulated products.

Published April 23, 2024